‘Comfortably Numb’

Updated: Sep 08, 2011, 20:18 PM IST

Supriya Jha

Just days before the tenth 9/11 anniversary, India was unfortunate to get its own version on 7/9/11. It was a blast near gate number five of Delhi High Court that unleashed the familiar set of emotions – a very, very, very short lived moment of shock generated by the scrolls running in bold red color on almost every news channel, with anchors and reporters hysterically spurting the same fractured sentences with the ‘same set of words’ – blast, police, intelligence, cordon off, ambulance, hospitals, victims, death toll, terror, attack, and a backgrounder with a series of numbers like13/9, 26/11, 13/7.

Everyone, from the police to the media to the ministers, seems to be systematically prepared for ‘what to do’ and ‘how to act’ – in the aftermath of any terror attack. Police cordons off the area, then come-in the cameras, with the ‘same set of bytes’: Investigation is on, people have been rushed to hospitals, sketches being prepared and the likes.

Ministers immediately call few emergency meetings and come out with the ‘same set’ of cold words and assurances; most of them being manufactured in the same format like “We strongly condemn the blasts. This is a cowardly act of terrorists. We will firmly deal with it.”

And the best rehearsed of them all are the reporters, who are ready with their vitriolic volley of questions, for one and all, impartially, questioning the police and victims alike.

One of the instances worth mentioning took place at the blast scene at Delhi High Court.

A lawyer, who was helping a victim rush to the ambulance, was relentlessly being quizzed by a reporter about the blast details. After being ignored, the reporter blurted out, “Sir, you should help the media!”

The lawyer gave a sharp revert: “I know who should I help at the moment and I am helping the victim.”

What a cruel irony it is that, for many of us in media, such tragic incidents get reduced to merely a piece of news that will give us TRPs and every death, to a number, (higher the number, bigger the tragedy). And now, not just media persons, even the general public doesn’t seem to get affected much. Just like the skin cells become dry and fall after few days of being wounded - in the same way, the regular dose of terror attacks has turned us into walking effigies of insensibility.

On day one, (that too only if we can afford to) we are glued to the TV sets for more terror details, gasping at the increasing death toll. On day two, we discuss it, in metros, in buses; in homes, at offices; during lunch, at the dinners; and the day ends. And by the third day, memory starts to fade for a majority. And after a week or so, depending upon the life-span of the ‘doomsday’ incident, when the media frenzy settles, the ministers too, tend to settle in their huge mansions, in their power-laden chairs, gradually loitering back to a culture of dormancy…Till the next NUMBER hits…

….and makes us NUMB. Unfortunately, we have turned ‘neurotically numb’ and ‘comfortably frozen’.

We have turned so apathetic and complacent, enmeshed in the cobwebs of busy city life that a blast altered hundreds of lives on this very soil and not a shiver went down our spines. Coincidentally, an earthquake rocked us on the same night, possibly wanting to shake us out of reverie.

The 4.2 magnitude quake at 11:28 pm, though not formidable enough, shook us literally, trying to remind the myopic Indian memory, what transpired at 10.17 am, so that we didn’t stop worrying so soon.

Are the ministers and the intelligence agencies listening?

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